Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hey, Dear Ones! I’ve been meaning to hop on the blog all weekend long to say Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms but I’ve been so busy being one, I haven’t had a solitary second! Melissa flew in on Wednesday and worked at LPM the rest of the week so she could be here for Mom’s Day. She’d missed her coworkers so much and they’d missed her, too. She also needed to hang pictures in her office and put her own personal touches on it. She’s got taste none of us around there can really emulate. An interior design major turned Bible exegete creates a curious mix. Amanda worked in the office several days this week while Lis was here so it was a particularly wonderful atmosphere around the ministry for me. Colin flew in, then, late Thursday night and hadn’t been home since they’d moved to Atlanta. He is so darling. We all enjoyed having him like crazy.

Since Melissa and Colin had to leave pretty early today, we had our Mother’s Day celebration yesterday. Curtis graciously babysat our little guy while Amanda, Melissa and I did our Mother-Daughter thing at the greatest mall in Texas: The Houston Galleria. We were there when it opened. My idea of a good time is to give my girls a tad of shopping money and tell them they only have that one spree to spend it. The offer ends in four hours. With great glee, then, I watch them go into a frenzy to try to spend it. They balked at first because it was Mother’s Day but 1) they’d already spent plenty on me and 2) that’s what I wanted for my gift anyway. As young adult daughters often are, both of them are on a tighter budget than me so it’s such a blast to watch them get something they wouldn’t afford for themselves. We all three tried on one thing after another in three consecutive dressing rooms and sometimes Lis and I just shared one so we could see each other’s outfits. (Amanda’s more modest than we are but we always try to peek at her to make her mad.) We laughed like crazy and talked about everybody we had anything nice to say about and tried to bite our tongues over anyone we didn’t. Sometimes more successfully than others. JK. We behave pretty well. As long as nobody’s been ugly to one of my girls at which point I can seem suddenly overtaken by invisible powers and principalities.

We ate at Kona Grill there at the Galleria for lunch and it was really good. The hostess at the restaurant was a sister in Christ we’d never met and we really hugged. She was just adorable. Tiny little thing. Me and both girls all had on heels so we looked like the Jolly Green Giant’s twin sister and two daughters. We’d have loved for her to have sat down with us but I think she thought she might have needed a high chair. We piled our shopping bags in the booth, sat down with joyful sighs and ordered Sushi for appetizers. AJ’s liked it for a while but I’m just beginning to develop a taste for it. My buddy and one of my God-daughters, Amy Hodge, has been teaching me to eat it and even with chopsticks. I let her order for me because she knows some safe stuff I like. If I’m not with her I just order California Rolls unless they have deep-fried sushi on the menu because I know I like that. Whatever kind I get, I drown the first one in soy sauce and enough wasabi to make me cry then as soon as the waiter gives me CPR, I eat another one. Really fun. Melissa was so proud of me for trying something new. She said, “Right about now, Mom, I’m picturing you on the Texas Cyclone (the terrifying, rickety roller coaster at the old Texas icon, Astroworld), with your hands straight up in the air, practically free falling down the steepest part, screaming happily like me and Dad instead of riding The Serpent with all the five year olds.” I looked at her dryly and said, “It’s just Sushi. I’m not even sure I like it.” I hate roller coasters. I liked the Serpent. The one at Astroworld anyway. Not the one in the Garden. Nor the one in my business. After loading up the car and making one last stop at Anthropologie (and me griping about the price-tags), we headed home because we had lots of preparation to do.

The girls and I threw a Mexican Fiesta at my house for Mother’s Day Eve with Keith’s parents, our dear forever friends, Johnnie and David Haines (we raised our kids together), both sons-in-law and, of course, the Master of Ceremonies, the Little Mister. We ordered fajitas from a really terrific place by Curtis and Amanda’s then made all the fixings around it. Melissa made the best queso from scratch that you have ever tasted in your life. I’ve never seen so many things go into queso. Whatever happened to Velveeta and Rotel, for crying out loud?? She also made guacamole from scratch with an equal number of ingredients. I never saw so much chopping in my life. I just cleaned up behind her. Didn’t know what else to do. Amanda made a sopapilla cheese cake that was honestly one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted. She left it at my house last night late and, after I ate nearly half of it, explained that she didn’t take it home because “you would not believe all the fat that went into that thing!” She said, “I knew I didn’t want it at my house!” Thank you, Amanda.

We had the best time, laughing and talking, and playing with Mr. Center of Attention. Lis and Colin had gotten him a ton of toys. One of them was a big bubble maker. By the time the evening was over, we all needed a “Slippery When Wet” sign hung around our necks. We were all suds but no duds. (I’m proofreading this now and realizing that I might need to explain that by “duds” I don’t mean clothes. I mean party poopers.) Everybody got into the action. It was only about 95 degrees in the shade. Houston is just perfect for eating outside if you can avoid encephalitis from twenty-five mosquito bites per leg. It was a terrific evening. Really.

I love the fact that our blog is for anybody who will give us the privilege to serve her, whether single, married, divorced, or widowed. I try not to overdo the wife and mother thing because our single siestas bring something so important to this mix but on this day everybody understands. So with your permission, I just want to say that I love being a mother. I’ve never had a harder job but I have never done anything in the human realm that gave me more sustained joy. My parenting days won’t be over until my days are completely over but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way – and many of them from making mistakes and getting to try again:

*Kids are pretty danged resilient. Ours survived some rough times but knew their struggling parents – fighting so hard for wholeness – loved them like crazy (and sometimes just loved them crazy) and were steadily trying to get healthier and healthier. When Keith and I each came to conclusions that we were messed up enough to mess them up, we went to counseling. The girls knew it and respected it.

*They don’t expect their parents to be perfect but they sure as heck expect them to be real. They despise hypocrisy and disrespect what is disrespectful even if they’re too scared to say so. They respond well to genuine apologies and, in fact, don’t learn to extend them otherwise.

*They need lots and lots of hugs and kisses even if they act like they don’t. They need to be told “I love you so much” over and over even if they don’t seem to be listening. They are. Don’t just give in to a sullen child and become sullen with him/her. Some kids have everything to lose if you let them win. Keep fighting for a relationship and try to take interest in their interests and sooner or later, they’ll cave in and smile. I respect few parents on earth more than Dr. James McDonald (pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area) and his wife, Kathy. When one of his kids became a teenager, he felt an unfamiliar distance grow between them. He became so worried when it persisted that he told his church he was going to need to take some time off and wasn’t sure how long. With Kathy’s blessing, he told the teenager to pack a bag and get in the car with him. He drove out of the driveway, and took off on a road trip, explaining to the child that they’d return when their relationship was mended. Needless to say, after some very awkward hours, they ended up talking, crying, laughing, and making memories that they’ll have for a lifetime. Now, that’s some fine parenting.

*They need to laugh a ton with their parents and be silly. There need to be lots of private jokes that only family understands. When both girls married, those were the things they recalled to their daddy and me most.

*They need to know that God is not just the Boss. He’s the biggest blast in all of life. They love to learn the wonders of God in creation. Things like how He made a bumble bee to fly even though it’s aerodynamically impossible and how animals exist in Africa and Asia that we’ve never even seen in a zoo. They long to be taught simple pleasures that cost nothing more than a moment of time away from the TV, computer or cell phone – like marveling at a sunset or applauding God over a sunrise and clipping roses from a bush and putting them in a vase. Or watching roly-polies. Digging up earthworms. Fishing for a perch. Beholding a lady bug on a tree trunk. That all of these things are wonders of God and that He’s worth jumping up and down over.

*They need to know the beauty of Christ when they’ve done something wrong and feel guilty. They need to know that they have a destiny; that Christ planned their lives for this exact time in history and has given them gifts to discover and develop as they grow up. That they are important because He’s so important. That nothing so bad can happen to them that He can’t use for good. That Mommy and Daddy can’t make them Christians. They have to accept His free gift of grace and invite Him into their hearts. That we think nothing is worthier of celebration than that and we’ll risk throwing out backs out to do cartwheels when they let Christ do something wonderful in their lives.

*They need their parents to follow through. To say “no” when “no” needs to be said. They need their parents to be parents at the risk of being very unpopular. They need parents to intervene in an unhealthy relationship with the opposite sex. They need not to be given so many material things (even if we can afford it) that they grow into discontented, narcissistic adults. Nothing is less pleasant than a thirty year-old brat.

*And when they become parents, they don’t need their parents to turn their noses up at them and act all pious like they never lost patience with their kids. They know better anyway. They don’t need parents to forget how hard having preschoolers was and tell them, “These are the best years of your life!” No, these are the most exhausting years of your life. Wonderful! But exhausting! They need us to maybe chip in and pay for them to get their houses cleaned from top to bottom every now and then rather acting like we wish they were better housekeepers.

*Their friendships with their siblings need to be high priority. This one I blew so I share it with you as a regret. I regret allowing them to bring friends along so often on family outings. Yes, they begged but I wish I’d more often said “no.” Yes, they’d have pouted. But they also would have gotten over it and turned to each other. We always had their friends around and I think it may have kept my girls from making good friends of each other for a very long time. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I think it’s also really weird when parents severely restrict the home to family and don’t encourage their kids to make friends and get involved at school. Me? I think they’re hiding something. There’s something really freaky and cultish about sequestered homes. (NOT in your wildest dreams talking about home-schoolers! I’m talking about homes where virtually no one but the family members who live there are allowed. I think that’s weird but what do I know??) At the very least, kids don’t end up developing social skills and, instead, become really bizarre adults that can’t get a normal job. Sorry. My point is, I think there should be a pretty steady dose of activity just for family so kids have to play with each other instead of ganging up on each other with their peers. I believe in having a revolving door to my children’s friends and having tons of spend-overs but I am convinced that I allowed it so often that my kids made better friends than each other. Our best memories are from family vacations where Amanda and Melissa were all they had. Joyfully, they are best of friends today but it’s because, when they moved to different cities, they learned that nobody is like your sister. Take it from me. I have one sister that I never lay eyes on. Don’t even know for certain where she is. Doesn’t sober up enough to have a conversation. Let alone a relationship. I miss her so much. We were inseparable growing up. You feel incomplete when you’re out of sorts with a sibling. They’re too much a part of who you are. No one should be a better friend than your sister.

*God gives lots of grace to parents. Good thing, huh? Let me offer you some encouragement based not only on my experience but that of many other people I’ve known. If you give a rip and try a flip, this whole parenting thing often turns out so much better than you thought it would. Sometimes you can’t even believe that’s you your kids are talking about. You realize they forgot some things. And now you need to, too. Praise You, Lord, for parenting mercies.

Amanda and Melissa, you are the greatest daughters God ever could have given me. So witty. So funny. So loving. You make me think. You make me laugh my head off. You make me spend. And you make me pray. Boy, do you make me pray. Amanda, Happy Mother’s Day yourself. Oh, my word, you are a fabulous mom. Melissa, Amanda and I can only imagine the fun mom you will be one day. What a blessed child that will be. Never a dull moment.

Oh, wow, Siestas. I went on longer than I meant to. So, instead of closing, I’ll go on a minute longer. I thought if you wouldn’t mind humoring me, Mother’s Day might be a sweet day to share a poem God gave me many years ago when I was sitting in a hotel room in a city where I was speaking. It was a rare occasion when I left on a Thursday instead of a Friday and I was miserable thinking about how my children would have to get ready for school without me. I was so homesick I could hardly stand it. I’ve read it here and there along the way so you may have heard it before but it’s dear to me, especially today, so handle it. It’s the only poem I ever memorized. No, it’s not a sacred one…unless you think parenting is sacred. And I do.

It happened just exactly like this:

I called to check on home last night
To see if all was going right
My man assured me all was well
And it was true…I could tell.

I felt so far away from home
So by myself, so all alone
No noise here, no bouncing balls
No fussing kids, no endless calls.

I asked if everything was set
I didn’t want him to forget
To take care of the “mother things”
To hang their shirts and crease their jeans.

He said, “Your oldest set her clock
She’ll get us up right on the dot
Don’t worry now, they’ll get to school
We love you much, we’ll see you soon!”

The phone went dead. I wasn’t through…
I barely said, “I love you, too.”
I sat and stared down at the floor
“She’s never set her clock before.”

She’s just a kid, not old enough
To wake without a mother’s touch
What chance is there at school they’ll say,
“You’re one great kid! You’re loved today!”

Kids need to hear those words first thing
Before a careless clock can ring
And furthermore, they like, I frowned,
Hot cocoa when they first come down!

“Dads,” I thought, and fell in bed
Then after while to myself said,
“He’s probably right, give them a break
She is fifteen, for heaven’s sake.”

“Fifteen,” I sighed, “Where has it gone?
Since that first day before the dawn
When she and I told secrets dear
And her first bath was in my tears?”

I’d held her close with just one arm
Reached for the phone to call my mom
“Oh, Mom,” I sobbed, “I love her so!”
She cried as well and said, “I know.”

The years are mean…they rush on by
The kite string slips into the sky
She’s nearly grown, yes, plenty old
To wake up when the clock says so.

I felt so sudden like a fool
It won’t take Mom to get to school
How silly…they will all be fine
Just go to sleep and rest your mind!

I tried to let the dawn go by
Without a call to check and pry
To see how everyone had fared
Got your lunch? Homework prepared?

I finally grabbed the phone and dialed
It seemed to ring a country mile
My heart sunk swift…they must be gone
Dad’s out the door…dog’s on the lawn.

I started to hang up the phone
Until I heard a voice on
The other end as up he leapt
“For heaven’s sake, we’ve overslept!”

Suddenly the house lit up
He threw the phone, said, “Kids, get up!”
I heard each voice at a time
They were mad, but they were mine!

I cheered them on from miles away
I heard them readied for their day
And just before they slammed the door
She yelled, “Thanks, Mom!”

That’s what I’m for.


A Camp Do-Over

Don’t you love it when God gives you a do-over? He has graciously given me MANY do-overs, and my most recent was at camp last week. This camp was for the church I grew up in – where I got saved, where I got married, where I interned in college, and where I served with my husband for our first year of marriage. Last year we kicked off our summer with this very same camp. Curt had been invited to be the camp speaker and we were so honored and excited. Since college, I had been at that camp as a co-counselor and then as a counselor with my eighth grade Sunday School girls. I was used to running around with my middle school girls, getting really muddy on the rec field, enjoying worship and the Word, and getting to witness God’s work in the hearts of these kids. Some of my favorite memories happened there. I always left with a new picture of God in my mind and joy in my heart.

When I returned last year as a nursing mom of a three-month-old, it was just a little different! Now my eighth graders were all grown up and old enough to be co-counselors. The baton had been passed. It rained the entire time and Jackson and I were largely confined to our room. It seemed like just when the sun came out or something fun or meaningful started to happen, it was time to go back to my room and feed him or let him nap. I was still very new to motherhood and my insides were still grasping for my old freedoms. That is a frustrating time for new moms. Once that dies it’s a lot easier. I was also struggling with being around old friends with my new baby for the first time. I wanted to look like I had this motherhood thing down. Ha! Even if that were true, I was so thrown off by the rhythms of camp that any semblance of having it together was out the window.

Needless to say, camp was a struggle. Isolation and self-pity set in and I became what I hate most in myself…the needy wife. Just what every camp speaker needs, right? Gross! I’d been defeated.

When Curt was invited back this year I was determined not to go with him. I had one of my best friends praying for me because I was having such a hard time with the thought of going back. God worked on my heart and I eventually changed my mind.

I’m so thankful that God gave us the opportunity to go back this year. I still didn’t get to play on the rec fields, have meaningful conversations with kids, or experience much of worship and the Word, but my heart was different. I decided to enjoy fellowship with old friends rather than use that time to “prove myself.” I decided to let my husband be free and not make him feel guilty for having fun when I had to be in the room. I decided to take advantage of Jackson’s nap time and early bed times and catch up on sleep and some good reading. God gave me victory over self-pity, over the desire for old freedoms, over isolation, and over being a needy wife. He redeemed the personal failure that last year was for me. I walked away with joy and not shame. Praise be to our God who loves to redeem, who loves to get glory through second chances.

To our delight, my parents got to swing by camp on their way home from the Life Today taping. The 400-something of you who commented on the PMS post might be relieved to know that they seemed as happy as ever. He must have called. And Mom’s probably getting really excited about her own do-over in a few weeks.


Please Hang With Us For One More, Single Sistas!

If you darlin’ single sistas will hang in here with us for one more blatantly family-oriented entry, I promise we won’t make a habit of doing so many in a row. You mean so much to me and I make a point of keeping you on my mind when I get to serve the Word. It’s just that I’ve been speaking on marriage and parenting here at the end of my Tuesday night series out of Proverbs. So, that’s what’s been on my mind. You may be relieved to know that last night was my final session on family with one general session left for the series. (Disclaimer: We’ll always have stuff about Jackson on the ministry blog because he’s the official little prince of LPM!)

Last night at Bible study I taught on being a mom and my mind has been swimming with memories of my girls when they were little bitty. As God would have it, a few weeks ago I happened on an old prayer journal from 1982 when Amanda was barely three and Melissa was a newborn. Those of you in the throes will not be surprised to hear that it was filled with unsophisticated requests for things like more sleep, for Melissa to adjust better to the church nursery, for financial help as I got to stay home with the girls, for Amanda not to catch Melissa’s cold, for Keith and I to get along better, for him to want to go to church, for him to stop cussing (I hope you’re smiling because I am), for him to…and for him to…and for him to…and for him to…and for us to get to go to a marriage conference, for me to apply what I was learning in my first Dr. Dobson book, for me to have a better disposition (I must have used the word ten times that I could find), and for me to make minutes for my quiet time because “my day goes so much better when I do.” Sound familiar?

(My personal favorite was when I asked God for forgiveness for trying to steal some of His glory for being so prideful about the way I played handbells in the handbell choir. I laughed until I cried. Then again, it has nothing to do with children but you surely would not have wanted to miss that, would you?)

Even before I found the journal, I’d begun reliving so many of those experiences as I watched Amanda with her young family. One of the things I enjoy so much as I relive those priceless and challenging days in my memory is Amanda telling me all about her fellow mom-friends and the babies they share. Second only to seeing pictures of Jackson in his Easter outfit, I died to see pictures of Ella and Ava, his best girl buddies who were born within days of him. The pictures did not disappoint. I hang on every word Amanda says as she tells me about this mom and this baby, that mom and that baby.

I can’t overemphasize how rich my fellow moms made my parenting experience. Particularly one: my best friend, Johnnie. She had two boys and I had two girls and we dragged those four kids to every McDonalds in Houston just so we could finish a sentence. We taught Mother’s Day Out together because we were both broke. We home-made family Christmas gifts because we didn’t have the money to buy them. (We spent what money we had on our babies.) I hate arts and crafts to this day and still have burns from glue guns. That’s not all. I’d decide I’d had it with Keith and I’d leave him in the morning sometimes, go to her house with my unsuspecting girls, drink a cup of coffee, get in a better mood, and be back home by the time he got off work. He’d walk in the door, ask about my day, and I’d say under my breath, “I left you today. That’s how my day was.” Hee hee. Somehow I’d feel some satisfaction with that, repent, then fall in love with him all over again. It was his looks.

My point is, Moms, you’ve got to have you a support group of other moms. Many who are peers. Others who are just ahead of you. They will be used of God to get you through everything from the mundane to the morose. As I told my class last night, our ancient female ancestors walked to wells and rivers together to get water. Our great grandmothers quilted and canned together. We, instead, are imprisoned in our minivans driving breakneck speed, thinking a few maniacal minutes on a cell phone can replace a regular play-date where believing moms can take some time to laugh and share. I don’t think it’s a luxury. It’s a necessity for mental (and often spiritual!) health! Because, you see,…

*No day full of dirty diapers has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No tantrum has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No “but, Mom, everybody is going!” has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No “You hate me!” has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No child’s first love has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No child’s first broken heart has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No broken curfew has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.
*No goodbye has overtaken you but such as is common to moms.

About five years ago, my buddy Johnnie’s oldest son, Jeremy, was just about to vow his life to the woman of his dreams. The music was already playing in the sanctuary and we were only about three minutes from the service starting. We looked around and suddenly realized that it was just the six of us left in the choir room: Johnnie, her two boys, and me and my two girls. The four kids were all beautiful, God-loving young adults. Johnnie and I had lived through it and they’d lived through us. Wow, Lord. The groomsmen had already gone to their posts and it was just about time for Jeremy to take his place through a sanctuary door down a long hall. Had we tried to manipulate a few moments alone between the six of us, we could never have pulled it off. It was a gift from God. The completely unplanned moment was not lost on a single one of us six and even now I could cry about the tenderness of it. Without anyone saying a word, Jeremy held out his arm for one of my daughters. Jordan held out his arm for the other. And Johnnie held out her arm to me. Arm in arm, three familiar pairs of us walked the long hall, laughing, and nearly crying, making our way toward the finish line of young family-hood just like we began: together. Those kinds of relationships don’t take place in five minutes. They take years. Crises. Prayers. Divine favor. Your fellow moms are some of the most priceless treasures God has bestowed on you to cheer you on your way to the finish line of young parenting. Grab some arms and do it together.

I love you.